The Lorax (2012)

98.

★★★

Directed by: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Written by: Ken Daurio (screenplay), Dr. Seuss (book)
Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Danny DeVito

For a film that looks so fluffy and cute, spritely and funny, The Lorax sure has a heavy environmentalist message. Based on the original Dr. Seuss storybook, The Lorax tries to give an energetic and fun twist to the rather depressing realities of consumerism, and environmental destruction. Whether the film actually manages to pull this off as a family film, however, is another question.

Humph.

In a little town called Thneedville, nobody needs nature. Nobody cares for birds or grass, and they buy fresh air from a big business mogul, O’Hare (Rob Riggle). Everything is artificial, plastic, and run on money. The only girl who wishes for real trees, however, is Audrey (Swift), who also happens to be the girl our protagonist, Ted (Efron), is in love with. To prove his love, Ted leaves the safe walls of Thneedville to find The Once-ler (Ed Helms) – a mysterious man who has all the answers to trees, according to his grandmother. From his visits to The Once-ler, Ted discovers the true story behind Thneedville, and how the beauty and protection granted to the trees and wildlife were taken by the insatiable greed and consumerist desires of Thneedville’s residents. And while a magical guardian of the trees, The Lorax (DeVito), tries to warn people of their selfish ways, his powers are pushed to their limits, hoping someone will come along who cares.

Sprouting from such an innocently cute love story, The Lorax makes the mistake of aligning our perspective with Ted first, and then diverting to the origin of Thneedville through the character of The Once-ler for a large portion of the second act. In doing so, The Lorax loses its humorous steam and plunges into a musical guilt trip about consumerist ambitions and the price nature pays as a result, without being creative in using Dr. Seuss’ kooky imagery in a way that is anything more than stylish and colorful.

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